Note from Beth: My colleague, John Weeks, is an expat nonprofit techie living and working in Cambodia. We first connected back in 2004 when I started my first blog on Cambodia and was covering the Cambodian Blogosphere for Global Voices. When I was in Cambodia last summer, John hosted a blogger’s meet up. When learned about Giving Tuesday, he offered to share an inspiring story about giving back.
Give 10 Every Day: An Inspiring Story of Giving Back – Guest Post by John Weeks
So just what is “Give 10”?
I spent every day for a full year, and I gave away $10 to 365 different projects that I thought were making a difference, somewhere in the world.
What drew you to put your money and your mouth where your morals were?
I’ve been working in the humanitarian world for 15 years. When I was looking at the end of the year (2010), what my goals were, I felt a little bit discouraged. I felt like I’d become the jaded person who wasn’t really sure if people were actually ‘making a difference’.
So you decided to test it out.
So I said I would do it for thirty days, ten dollars a day, and it was amazing. I realized, you know, there ARE a lot of people who are making changes, who are making a difference in all corners of the world in different ways — and I decided that I would do it for a year. I made sure I did it every night before I went to bed.
How did you maintain such a crazy pace? You have a full-time job. And you have bills to pay as well.
This is one of the questions I’ve been asked the MOST about #Give10,
“How can you afford to give away ten dollars every day?” Ten dollars a day is about three hundred dollars a month. And I grew up from a family that was a giving family, it’s just what you did. That’s not even ten percent of my income, it’s two thousand dollars LESS than the annual tax deduction for a single American.
So you can’t even get a tax break from ‘Give 10’?
And then #Give10 became known as a point for focus and discussion about the nonprofit world. Did you expect that to happen?
I didn’t expect it to happen and that was never my intention. Each day after I gave away the ten dollars I would post it in social media. It became a movement of generosity. There are a LOT of people in the world who actually want to make a difference.
One day I gave ten dollars to a local anti-trafficking NGO – a very small project – and someone (through my own social network) wrote to me… that [connection] evolved into a five thousand dollar matching grant for this project for women to do anti-trafficking outreach in their home villages.
Things like that must have helped carry you forward.
Definitely. Seeing other people get excited, seeing other people wanting to give, it also made me realize that I’d just always assumed everyone knows what I know. (Laughter)
It’s a challenge to get unbiased information about NGOs.
It was really interesting. In the first weeks that I started this project, the story of Greg Mortenson (‘Three Cups of Tea’) broke. I think that was one of the things that played into my initial frustration, how we trust people.
You have these sites, Charity Navigator and things, that point out cost, overhead, et cetera. Even with that there’s loopholes …
That’s one of the benefits of social media, you can see what people are saying about the organization, who’s giving to the organization.
The new generation of the internet is changing how charity works. People can now easily connect to people in any other part of the world and give them money.
You do a Kickstarter thing, or IndieGoGo thing, and off you go!
Exactly. And I think that’s a good thing, but I also think that’s a challenging thing. From a fundraising perspective, it’s wonderful people can choose causes they believe in and raise money for them. Alot of times bad development work is done by very well-meaning people.
Does this model apply on a smaller scale? Some people live on two dollars a day or less – and they still manage to be charitable, sharing their time and labor.
I definitely think so. In a poor community, that’s a way of life, where in the Western world, it’s not so much.
In my second year of #Give10, I’ve decided to do is pick fifty-two of those three hundred and sixty-five organizations and take a deeper look at them, I’m doing interviews with them. I felt they did a good job with my ten dollars, so I’m giving them a hundred dollars.
Not every day though. (Laughter)
For more about John Weeks / www.jweeks.net.